Pressure and expectations are two terms that have followed Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) ever since he burst onto the pro scene over a decade ago. Since then the sprinter of his generation has won world titles, 30 stages in the Tour de France, multiple other races and broken record after record.
On the eve of the 2017 Tour de France, the former road world champion finds himself in a relatively new position – that of an underdog but one with little to prove. That Cavendish is even at the Tour de France is somewhat of a victory in itself, given the medical prognosis he was handed back in March when a blood test revealed that he was suffering from glandular fever.
In the time since, Cavendish has regained his health, made a tentative return to racing and announced that he is at the Tour de France with the aim of adding to his tally of 30 stage wins. As he has stressed every year since first rocking up to the Tour, one stage win would qualify as a success. Stage 2 of the Tour will determine how he stacks up against his sprint rivals and whether he has the necessary top-end speed.
“Obviously I’m not in ideal condition, but the good thing about being a sprinter is that sometimes you can win on luck,” he said, rather underplaying the skill, speed, guile and hard work that have underpinned much of his success both on the track and road.
“If you get on the right wheels and you get on the right one, then there’s a chance that you can win. It’s worth coming here with that chance as a sprinter because there are a lot of sprint stages.”
The consensus at the Tour is that there are nine stages suited to the sprinters – a design feature of the route that has not been seen since Cavendish’s early dominance in 2008. Last year, Cavendish picked his way to four stages and a stint in the yellow jersey. It’s far too early to talk about a repeat performance – especially as the race starts with a time trial, a yellow is almost certainly out of reach – but Cavendish’s relaxed and easy-going demeanour is an indication of how he is approaching this year’s race.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com